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For the men

Productiehuis De Chinezen / Xavier Taveirne
 
Time period: 1940-1995
Accessibility: by appointment via vrtarchief@vrt.be
Period of interviews: 2018

Xavier Taveirne talks to the first generations of men who dared to come out as gay in Flanders. It is a moving and often disconcerting series with stories of love, struggle and pain, and the taboo of being gay in less tolerant times.

 

In three episodes, older gay men tell their stories uncensored. Important stories and often conversations in which they do not shy away from thorny current issues.

Three-part documentary “Voor de mannen”

 

Episode 1: 1940-1970
The first episode features gay men growing up in post-war Catholic Flanders. Sex was taboo for everyone, and if homosexuality was mentioned at all, people talked about ‘jeanets’. The church was also very repressive.

Xavier sought out Paul Rademaekers, now 98, who still gets angry when he thinks back to those times: “I have always said: homosexuality is not a sexual problem, but a social problem. I started with difficult cards. But even with difficult cards, you have to try to make as many assets as possible. My assets were that I always stood up for others, especially gay people.”

The first turning point came only in 1970, when Will Ferdy became the first well-known Fleming to speak on television about his “being different”. It was a shock for Flanders. Will received many negative reactions, but his courageous testimony did mark the very beginning of gay emancipation.

 

Episode 2: 1970-1980
The wild 1970s were also the years of sexual liberation and social change for the gay community.

Although gays – especially in rural areas – still often continued to lead a hidden life, thriving subcultures emerged in the cities with gay bars and nightclubs where anything was possible. A debauched life that everyone today thinks back to with nostalgia.

Xavier also talks to Chille De Man and Guido Totté. Guido first took to the streets with the Trotskyist Rooie Vlinder to enforce equal rights for gays and straights. An early precursor to Pride, which Chille later organised for the first time in Brussels.

 

Episode 3: 1980-1995
For the gay community, the 1980s were overshadowed by the rise of a new, deadly disease: AIDS.

In this episode, gay men recount the havoc wreaked by the AIDS virus. It took years before the first medication was available, and in that time many gay men became infected. Only a few of them are still alive today. One of them is Patrick Reyntiens. Xavier talks to him about those black years, when all gay people were once again fingered. “AIDS was God’s punishment for the homosexuals’ rampant behaviour”, and AIDS patients were the new plague sufferers.

Xavier also talks to Rob Scheers, who was active in the first prevention campaigns, yet later became infected himself through risky behaviour.

Interviews WWII – Maurice De Wilde

 
Time period: 1940-1945
Number of interviews: 300
Accessibility: by appointment via vrtarchief@vrt.be
Period of interviews: 80's

In 1982, the then BRT (now VRT) broadcast Maurice De Wilde’s legendary documentary series De Nieuwe Orde. About collaboration with the German occupiers during World War II.

This was followed by other series: about the resistance, the Eastern Front, punishment… For these documentaries, Maurice De Wilde and his collaborators interviewed more than 300 people. Among them well-known collaborators such as Jef Vande Wiele, leader of DeVlag, and Rex leader Léon Degrelle. People from the resistance, ministers, lawyers and professors were also interviewed by Maurice De Wilde in his characteristic style.

 

Documentaries by Maurice De Wilde
The New Order – 19 episodes
The Suspects – 4 episodes
The Time of Retaliation – 8 episodes
The Eastern Frontiers – 7 episodes
The Repression – 5 episodes
The Collaboration – 10 episodes
The Youth Collaboration – 4 episodes
 

DOCUMENTARIES


 

The very last witnesses

 
Time period: 1914-1918
Number of interviews: 100
Accessibility: by appointment via vrtarchief@vrt.be
Period of interviews: 2009-2010
 

‘The Very Last Witnesses’ is an interview project in which 100 very elderly Flemings testify on camera about the First World War.

Together, their stories form the big story of the war in Flanders, in all its facets. The war was profound, not only for those who fought and lived at the front.

All these witnesses were children during the war. Some had to flee headlong to the Netherlands, England or France, others lived under the terror of the occupying forces. Some suffered hunger and missed their fathers who fought at the front or had been taken to Germany as prisoners of war….

De allerlaatste getuigen van WO I

Author: Philip Vanoutrive

Publisher:  Lannoo, 2018

ISBN: 9789401456210

Based on this, Philip Vanoutrive published the book “The very last witnesses of WW1”. The stories of 43 witnesses traverse 23 thematic chapters in which their war memories are each interwoven with historical background information. Vividly, they recount their experiences and adventures. Repulsive anecdotes about death and destruction but also touching or funny stories they can still vividly recall. For some, it was a ‘nice and fun’ time – something happened for once! For the other, childhood dreams exploded like an exploding grenade.

We, women

 
Time period: 1960-present
Number of interviews: 18
Accessibility: by appointment via vrtarchief@vrt.be
Period of interviews: 2022
 

The struggle for equal status and representation of women and men in Flanders is more than a century old. Great strides have been made, but we are not there yet. Using testimonies and archive footage, the four-part series ‘We, women’ outlines the evolution of the position of women in our society, both privately and in public life.

 

How have wrong expectations, upbringing, glass ceilings, discrimination, pressure, prejudice or other obstacles made it difficult for women to develop to their full potential in recent decades? For example, in the areas of upbringing, education, marriage, family, sexuality, work and politics. How have they dealt with this? What have action groups, politicians and individual women been able to change? And how do women experience all these obstacles today?

 

In ‘We, women’, women of all ages and walks of life tell their stories, together with politicians, figureheads of the women’s movement and former ‘Dolle Mina’s’. Their testimonies are illustrated with punishing archive footage. These are at times disconcerting and at other times funny stories about being brought up as a housekeeper, fighting to be allowed to study, the conquest of men’s professions, sexual taboos and men who still think they know better. The four episodes focus successively on sexuality, marriage and family, professional life and politics.

 

We, women’ uses the tried and tested formula of Children of…: the entire historical and current story is told by committed witnesses who look the viewer straight in the eye.

A surprising look behind the scenes of the struggle for women’s rights. Often stunning archive material that not least puts the sexism of our own public broadcaster on display. And eighteen women who draw you into their stories and leave you with deep respect.

The episodes

Videos can be viewed if you are logged in and have confirmed your Belgian residence or identity

 

S1 | Afl.1

In charge of your own body

Battle for sexual freedom, from taboo on monthlies to Metoo

 

S1 | Afl.2

Women must know their place

For decades, women have been brought up to be obedient to men.

 

S1 | Afl.3

Welcome to the world of men

For a long time, education prepared girls mainly for the household.

 

 

S1 | Afl.4

Women in power

Women organised, resisted and conquered their place

Below is an overview of the 18 witnesses – or participants in Canvas’ documentary We, Women – arranged by age.

 

  • Victoire Van Nuffel (1937): cycling champion and bar owner, openly lesbian at a time when that was anything but obvious.
  • Nelly Maes (1941): politician who fought against sexism in politics and campaigned for women’s rights.
  • Gerlinda Swillen (1942): Dutch teacher and VUB researcher, militant for equal pay for equal work.
  • Ida Dequeeker (1943): emancipation official at VDAB, co-founded the Dolle Mina movement in Flanders and participated in the influential Vrouwen Overleg Komitee.
  • Lieve Flour (1944): administrative assistant in the construction sector, grew up in a stifling traditional environment and overcame a humiliating marriage.
  • Josette Franckson (1946): worker FN Herstal, involved in the legendary women’s strike at that factory in 1966.
  • Margot Roggen (1948): administrative assistant in the insurance sector, often had to fight against male privilege and even overt discrimination as a child and later during her studies and at work.
  • Marie Jeanne Declerq (1950): police commissioner, made a career in the male bastion of the Judicial Police.
  • Liliane Versluys (1951): lawyer and visual artist, engaged in the Leuven refuge and published the controversial book Your Rights as a Woman (1987).
  • Moniek Darge (1952): composer, was active in Dolle Mina and founded Vrouwen Tegen Verkrachting.
  • Kati Couck (1954): ABVV staff member, active with Dolle Mina, founded abortion centre Kollektief Anticonceptie, started Vluchthuis Gent and organised self-defence courses for women.
  • Linda Van Crombruggen (1960): former complaints coordinator VRT, testifies about sexism and sexual harassment in her own home.
  • Khadija Zamouri (1967): politician, distanced herself from her conservative Moroccan Islamic milieu, became politically active with Open VLD, went to work on cabinets and became a Brussels MP.
  • Leyla Yüksel (1971): became a gynaecologist with the full support of her parents and, in her own words, was more bothered by sexism among white doctors than Turkish patriarchs.
  • Wendy Van den Heuvel (1978): administrative clerk and author, her mother was abused by her father. Recently, two male colleagues ambushed her on a dating site and shared her intimate photos. She left the company, but her experience inspired her to write a book.
  • Pinar Akbas (1980): has mixed feelings about her Turkish upbringing, went to college and temporarily entered politics, is currently a nurse and published her autobiography Niran and me this year.
  • Heleen Struyven (1988): worked as a lawyer at reputable firms, but noticed that sexism still exists there too. Yet she kept going for it… until she crashed.
  • Romy Schlimbach (1995): was bullied for her looks in childhood, experienced an eating disorder, an admission and severe depression, but today she is a plus-size model and influencer: body positivity is the alternative she promotes to the stifling beauty ideal.

Coal pits

Productiehuis De Chinezen
 
Time period: 1900-1992
Number of interviews: 13
Accessibility: by appointment via vrtarchief@vrt.be
Period of interviews: 2022
 

In Coal Pits, a number of carefully selected ex-miners dig deep into their memories, where they have stored a wealth of colourful stories about the mine. In juicy and plastic fashion, they tell moving, funny and exciting anecdotes about the dangerous and unhealthy work ‘in the pit’, about daily life in the cités, about the struggle for social rights, the arrival of the ‘guest workers’ and about the rise and fall of heavy industry in Limburg.

 

The series mainly lets workers have their say: men (and women) who grew up in poverty, usually had not studied and hoped for a better future by working in the pit.

Their stories form the basis of the series and are complemented by historical film material from various archives and atmospheric images of the still-existing industrial architecture and the original miners’ committees of the time.

The series is timely. Not only because it is 30 years since the last Limburg coal mine, that of Heusden-Zolder, was closed. But also because the generation that can still tell the story of the mines from their own experience is disappearing. This is shown, among other things, by the unfortunate fact that four of the 13 key witnesses have died since the filming.

 

Most of the witnesses are in their 70s and 80s, some even well into their 90s. These are the names:

Agostino Mele – 83 years old
Franco Mirisola – 69 years old
Ismail Erdogdu – 72 years old
Jan Kocur (+) – 79 years
Jean De Schutter – 76 years
Jean Peeters – 69 years
Louis Snoeks (+) – 91 years
Mai Van Houdt – 82 years
Mil Coenen – 63 years
Rocco Berterame (+) – 95 years
Sandrettin Koçak – 80 years
Sophie Gruszowski – 76 years
Stephan Bratus (+) – 96 years

The episodes
Three episodes cover the many facets of underground life, a fourth deals with life above ground and the fifth outlines the story of the closure of the mines.

Episode 1 – Underground
In the first episode, the coal miners take us into the mysterious world underground. In smells and colours, they recount their work and habits among the stones and dust.

Episode 2 – On life and death
In the second episode, the coal pits highlight the dangers of working in the mines. They reminisce about exciting moments and tricky situations that fortunately usually ended well for them. Although that was not the case for everyone.

Episode 3 – The promised land
There was a shortage of hands in the mines. Workers were therefore recruited from other countries. This third episode tells about the experiences of the newcomers in our country and sketches the multicoloured camaraderie underground.

Episode 4 – The cité
In the fourth episode, the coal pits take us to the cité. After all, the mine was much more than the dark corridors underground. Family life above ground was also completely controlled and organised by the mine, in districts and neighbourhoods where the miners lived together.

Episode 5 – The closure
The final episode looks back at the closure of the mines in Limburg. The coal miners recall the actions and strikes they undertook and outline the feeling they still struggle with to this day.

Metises of Belgium

Productiehuis De Chinezen
 
Time period: 1950 - 1960
Number of interviews: 3
Accessibility: By appointment via vrtarchief@vrt.be
 

The harrowing story of the children of Belgian colonials and African mothers who were placed in foster homes in Belgium in the late 1950s.

Exactly 60 years after the independence of Rwanda and Burundi, the three-part documentary series Metissen van België tells the staggering history of more than 300 metis from the Belgian colonial period in Rwanda. The makers of the series do so through the life stories of three of them: Jaak, Paul and Jacqueline.

As illegitimate children of a white father and a black mother, they were taken away from their mother by the Belgian government and placed in Save’s boarding school in Rwanda. Just before independence, they had to leave there too and were rushed to Belgium.

There, uprooted and traumatized, they ended up in an adoptive family or an orphanage. These were events that marked the rest of their lives. Only in 2015 did they get access to their official files and were able to search for their roots.

 

press release

Children of the collaboration

 
Time period: 1950 - 1960
Number of interviews: Onbekend
Accessibility: By appointment via vrtarchief@vrt.be.
 

During World War II, tens of thousands of Belgians collaborated with the Nazi regime. Their children look back and testify about the war period. What did their parents do, why did they collaborate, and how do their children feel about it now?

 

7-parts DOCUMENTAry

 

Author: Piet Boncquet
ISBN: 9789463104791

Publisher: Pelckmans

For the relatives of collaborators, the consequences of World War II were profound. They shared in the punishment and shame. Children often had an even harder time, as a normal family life was disrupted by facts they had absolutely nothing to do with. These were experiences they spent a lifetime reflecting on. The testimonies from the high-profile Canvas series Children of the Collaboration are now brought together in book form. Compiled by Piet Boncquet, the book is published in collaboration with Canvas. Historian Geert Clerbout, the final editor of the documentary series and the author of Publiek geheim (Public Secret), among others, writes the foreword. Piet Boncquet (1958) is a historian and archaeologist. He was a journalist with the newspapers Het Nieuwsblad and De Tijd for many years.

 

 

Extra documentaries by Maurice De Wilde

  • De Nieuwe Orde – 19 episodes
  • De Verdachten – 4 episodes
  • De Tijd der Vergelding – 8 episodes
  • De Oostfronters – 7 episodes
  • De Repressie – 5 episodes
  • De Kollaboratie – 10 episodes
  • De Jeugdkollaboratie – 4 episodes

 

EXTRA-DOCUMENTARIES

Children of the Holocaust

 
Time period: 1940 - 1945
Number of interviews: 12
Accessibility: By appointment via vrtarchief@vrt.be
 

The series shows how the events of 75 years ago have left their mark on subsequent generations. It also aims to show how our society has dealt with the memory of the Holocaust since World War II. Interviews with 12 children of Holocaust survivors.

Interviews were also conducted with seven experts from different fields, dissecting the systematics of Nazi extermination politics.

7-part documentary

 

Author: Piet Boncquet
ISBN: 9789463104784

Publisher: Pelckmans

The Holocaust claimed tens of thousands of victims in Belgium. For Jews who survived, the war would never be over. Immense was often the loss they had to give a place to. Their children had a leaden legacy to deal with. They also had to find their way in a society that was only willing to face the full truth about the war years later. These are experiences they have spent a lifetime reflecting on.

 

The testimonies from the high-profile Canvas series Children of the Holocaust have now been brought together in book form. Compiled by Piet Boncquet, the book is published in collaboration with Canvas. Historian Geert Clerbout, the final editor of the documentary series and the author of Publiek geheim (Public Secret), among others, writes the foreword. Piet Boncquet (1958) is a historian and archaeologist. He was a journalist with the newspapers Het Nieuwsblad and De Tijd for many years. 

Children of the resistance

 
Time period: 1940 - 1945
Number of interviews: 13
Accessibility: By appointment via vrtarchief@vrt.be.

 

Number of interviews: 13

 

Source material: VRT archive to be viewed on location

Access: by appointment via vrtarchief@vrt.be

Conditions: see website

 

Metadata can be consulted via meemoo: hetarchief.be

During World War II, tens of thousands of Belgians joined the resistance against the Nazis. Their children testify about that war period. What did their parents do, why did they join the resistance and how dangerous was it?

Many resistance fighters were arrested by the Germans. Those arrests are still on the minds of many children 75 years later.

6-PARTS DOCUMENTARY

 

Auteur : Piet Boncquet
ISBN : 9789463104807
Uitgever : Pelckmans

 

From the moment of the German invasion in May 1940, resistance to the occupation began. It often involved ordinary citizens who, out of conviction or patriotism, actively or passively resisted German soldiers, the German war machine and Belgian collaborators. In the course of the war, resistance organised itself and became more violent, as the occupying forces acted ruthlessly. The deep contrast between ‘whites’ and ‘blacks’, between resistance fighters and collaborators, marked post-war society. Partly because of this, especially in Flanders, the story of the resistance is less known. Unjustly so, as evidenced by the gripping testimonies in Children of the Resistance.

 

The episodes can be watched online in Belgium on canvas.be.

 

The book Kinderen van het verzet was compiled by Piet Boncquet and published in collaboration with Canvas. Piet Boncquet (1958) is a historian and archaeologist. He was a journalist for the newspapers Het Nieuwsblad and De Tijd for many years. Since 2013, he has been a freelance journalist and editor and wrote, among others, Lief en leed. Prostitution during World War I and The Last Supper after Leonardo da Vinci. A wondrous history.

Children of the migration

-
 
Time period: 1945 - 1979
Number of interviews: 20
Accessibility: By appointment via vrtarchief@vrt.be.
 

Twenty witnesses tell their stories: 13 men and seven women belonging to three generations. They come from Italy, Greece, Spain, Morocco and Turkey, representing the countries that, between World War II and the 1974 migration freeze, supplied the largest number of migrant workers to the Belgian economy.

They or their (grand)parents came to Belgium out of economic necessity, to escape political oppression, or even just for the adventure. They were miners, factory workers, domestic servants. Their children are labourers, entrepreneurs, social workers, a taxi driver and a school headmaster. The makers have sought as much variety as possible… and yet all these people appear to share a particularly wide range of experiences.

Six-part documentary series telling the story of labour migration to Belgium since World War II.